Travel Guides

Whistler | Adventure Destination Guide

Whistler, in Canada, is North America's largest ski resort. Here's everything else you need to know

Tim Hortons on tap and pretty much the only place where eating bacon and maple syrup on a pancake is acceptable. There are endless reasons as to why you should find some time to pay the wonderful people of Canada a visit – they’re easily one of the most welcoming countries out there (really helps if you’ve got some Scottish blood in you, mind). On top of this, they’ve got a pretty banging ski resort sitting within their crown jewel of skiing – British Columbia – and it’s just a two hour drive from Vancouver. It’s called Whistler and is, how do we put this, a pretty big deal.

The largest ski resort in North America (making it the largest outside of Europe), Whistler consists of two mountains linked together by a H-U-G-E gondola – the Peak to Peak. Although Whistler has some of the finest skiing in the the world, this mountain town isn’t just reserved for winter enthusiasts, it’s also one of the top mountain bike destinations out there.

Pictured. Yeah, the gondola really does reach the mountain across the valley

Once preserved for the Canadian locals, Whistler first became an internationally recognised resort twenty years ago, spurred by the news that it was to host the 2010 Olympic games. These hosting duties brought in huge amounts of cash, boosting lift infrastructure, shopping, hotel and restaurant conveniences, along with the area’s great après scene.

How To Get There

Getting over to Whistler can be quite tricky for those travelling from Europe. You can expect a ten hour flight from the UK to Vancouver, along with a two and a half hour road transfer from Vancouver to Whistler Village itself. Something else to consider is that you’re going to be crossing eight time zones along the way. Saying that, flights do come in cheap from London – £450 for a return – giving you more dollars to buy the locals a beer.

Things To Do In Whistler

There’s no two ways about it; your carbon footprint whilst enjoying the mountains can be pretty substantial particularly when you start to add on the amount of energy used to power ski resorts (we’re talking lift infrastructure, snow making and slope preparation), on top of the unavoidable carbon cost of travelling to said resort – unless of course, you fancy going full Greta and sailing across the pond.

We’re not going to sit here and dissuade you from going to this lovely place though. We just thought it was a nice lead-in to the fact that Whistler are doing their part to reduce your impact on the environment whilst out in the resort (something we can all get on board with). All of their power, you see, is generated from the Fitzsimmons River Hydro Project – sitting in the valley beneath the Peak to Peak gondola and producing as much energy as Whistler uses. It’s also nice to know that Whistler has won Canada’s Greenest Employers award ten years in a row. Chapeau.

Pictured: Whistler has an abundance of terrain

Similar to resorts such as Niseko, Whistler is also perched right next to the coast – in Whistler’s case, the Pacific Ocean. This proximity to the ocean means that storms roll through on an almost daily basis during the height of winter, these storms dump huge quantities of snow on the high alpine frontier that the Coast Mountain Range creates.

Given this proximity to the coast, you can expect some warmer temperatures and with that, a slightly more moisture saturated snowpack, compared to that of the more interior mountains of British Columbia. But even still, with an average of 11 metres of snow per year, you soon start to realise that the longer flight time has gone and increased your chances of scoring those powder turns.

So what to do with all this powder? Well, for all you experienced (and equipped) off piste skiers, Spanky’s Ladder is the place to go when the snow is stable. It’s this area of Whistler that holds three different backcountry bowls, all ranging in steepness and seriousness.

Pictured: Like the rest of British Columbia, Whistler is known for its tree runs

Spanky’s is accessed via a short (15 metre) bootpack, just a quick traverse from the top of the Glacier Express chairlift. Much of the terrain is heavily cliffed out, so know before you go. The zone is split up into three different bowls; Ruby, Diamond and Sapphire – it’s best to head into the easier Ruby Bowl first, to then spot your lines up towards Diamond and Sapphire, letting you find your way through the cliffs.

If you’re into ski touring and find yourself out in Whistler, then you simply have to ski the Spearhead Traverse. Similar to the Haute Route, Europe’s famous high alpine ski tour that runs from Chamonix to Zermatt, Whistler’s Spearhead Traverse covers 40 km as you link a series of peaks, ridges and glaciers in a ‘U’ between Whistler and Blackcomb.

If spending three to four days out in the Canadian backcountry wasn’t enough for you, you’ll be glad to know that the Canadians have now gone and equipped the Spearhead with a new hut project, building alpine mountain huts along the route of the traverse – giving you the luxury hut-to-hut ski touring experience you’ve always dreamed of. 

There’s also no shortage of things to do when the seasons start warming. Whistler is also a world class mountain biking destination, with that huge lift infrastructure serving the world famous Whistler Bike Park, with over 1,500 vertical metres of mountain biking on offer.

Pictured: Watch the best in the business throw it down at Crankworx. Credit: Crankworx

If you’d rather marvel at the pros doing their thang on two wheels, then Crankworx is the place to be. Taking place 5th – 16th August each year, Crankworx hosts the best mountain bikers in the world in a series of slopestyle events over some of the most unique bike park features.

Where To Stay

The town of Whistler itself is split up into three different villages; Whistler Village, Upper Village and the OG of – Creekside, with Whistler Village and Upper Village serving Blackcomb Peak and Creekside serving Whistler Mountain. From budget to eye-wateringly pricey, Whistler has its fair share of hotel providers. For value, you should definitely be looking at the all new Pangea Pod – a revolutionary hotel concept opened summer 2018. Also on the cheap side is the aptly named Nowhere Special hostel, with single rooms costing a measly $46/night (£27) – both of these hostels are shockingly cheap and are located enviably close to the lifts.

Pictured: Whistler is also a brilliant summer destination

Eating And Drinking

Just like anywhere else in North America, you’re never too far from an oversized portion of burgers, fries and sundaes. Whistler has it’s fair share of burger, ribs and steakhouses for all you fancying a high calorie meal. In an effort to keep things classy, we’d also recommend a trip to Araxi, where you’ll find the best seafood cuisine, fine wines and a posh table cloth to top it all off. What’s a ski resort without a decent pie shop? Well Whistler has a solid offering in Peaked Pies, found next to the park in Whistler Village. Peaked offers gourmet Australian-syle pies with fast food vibes – perfect for that quick pit stop before lapping up the fresh.

Check out our other adventure travel destinations for 2020.

This destination guide was brought to you in association with outdoor fashion retailer Blackleaf.

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